Toto Wolff admits Mercedes still face ‘significant gap’ to Red Bull in Melbourne

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, race. Saudi Arabia, March 2023.

A look from above as Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, race. Saudi Arabia, March 2023.

Toto Wolff has admitted that, while Mercedes made “encouraging” progress in Saudi Arabia, they still face a “significant gap” to Red Bull at the front.

Wolff said in the aftermath of the race in Jeddah that significant changes are going to be coming to the concept of the W14 as the season progresses, with Mercedes in a tightly-congested field behind Red Bull fighting for the tag of ‘best of the rest’ with Aston Martin and Ferrari, based on early evidence.

But given the way Max Verstappen was able to breeze past Lewis Hamilton in Jeddah on his way through the field, Mercedes were given pause for thought about just how much of a gap they need to make up on their rivals moving forward.

With the team already working hard behind the scenes on preparing upgrades to the car, Wolff is looking at the “small margins” between the chasing pack to see where Mercedes can make gains this weekend – with the gap to Red Bull being a bridge too far for now.

“The progress we saw in Saudi Arabia was encouraging,” Wolff said ahead of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

“We maximised the package we had and scored some solid points. More importantly, we continued to learn and understand more about the W14 and our development direction. Everyone back at base has been hard at work to turn these learnings into performance. recommends

The two potential headaches hanging over Red Bull in Australia
‘Lewis Hamilton’s expensive £60m contract could tempt Mercedes to look elsewhere’
The pressure of working for Ferrari: ‘People are literally spitting at you in the street’

“The signs we are seeing back at the factory are promising. We have got to take it step by step, though, and won’t get carried away until we see performance translated into lap time on track.

“The competitive order behind Red Bull is tight, with small margins having a big effect on points scored. There remains a significant gap to the front and that is ultimately what we are interested in closing.”

While Red Bull have not won at Albert Park since 2011, Australia has been a considerably happier destination for Mercedes in recent years, the team having taken victory there four times since the start of the turbo hybrid era in 2014.

Significant changes were made to the track layout last year as the race organisers looked to increase overtaking, with the average speed having gone up and a second attempt at a fourth DRS zone implemented around the circuit this year.

Wolff admitted the team are not in the place they would like to be currently, though they will still fight tooth and nail around the “unique” layout in Melbourne.

“We are looking forward to Australia,” the Mercedes team principal said. “It’s a country serious about its motorsport with a great racing tradition, and the fans are super passionate.

“Albert Park is a circuit with unique characteristics, which we will have to work hard to adapt to with the W14. As always, we will look to maximise the car we have, and score as many points as our potential currently allows.

“We are not where we want to be – but that won’t stop us from racing hard and giving it everything we’ve got.”